Your Old Website Isn’t Gone – Here’s How to Find It

Cynthia Bartz • November 29, 2016

If you’ve been in business for a while, then you probably have been through a couple of major website changes. Sometimes, in the process of changing our websites, we forget the critically important step of documenting, archiving, and keeping old content so we can refer back to it later.

Then that moment hits and you need a paragraph from a page that doesn’t exist anymore. It’s not gone. You can still get it back. It just takes a little poking around on the internet.

In the last article I showed you how to retrieve your old website content on WordPress, using the “Revisions” feature built into WordPress. This week I’m going to show you how to retrieve old content from any website. If you are a WordPress user, and always have been a WordPress user, I recommend reading the previous article: Don’t Panic! How to Recover Old Website Content on WordPress

The Wayback Machine

For more than 20 years The Internet Archive has been archiving website pages for the express purpose of making it possible to retrieve old content. They have a tool called The Wayback Machine that allows you to look at old websites, perfectly preserved. They have archived over 279 billion webpages and counting.

This amazing tool has saved me and my clients dozens of times. I’ve yet to run into a client website that we couldn’t find on the archive. Oh. And it’s free. The Internet Archive is a non-profit, and offers this service to the public for free.

What You Need

This tutorial will walk you through recovering old website content from any website. The best part of this method of retrieving content is that it is completely platform agnostic. It doesn’t matter if you started on Wix, switched to Squarespace, then started over again on WordPress; you will still be able to look at your old website content.

In order to recover content using this method you must:

  • Know the domain name

That’s it. You do need to know where the website used to live.

How to Retrieve Old Website Content for Any Website

Step 1: Go To Wayback Machine

Go to the Wayback Machine website. It should look something like the screenshot below.

Visit: The Wayback Machine

Step 2: Enter Your Old Website Domain

Enter the domain address (www.yourwebsite.com) to your old website into the search bar at the top. If you are looking for a specific page, and know what the address was you can enter that as well. For example, if you had an old landing page that was deleted, you could enter: www.yourwebsite.com/landing-page.

After entering your domain name it will take you to a calendar view, like what you see below. The calendar is marked with every date that the website was captured. At the top you will find a timeline going back twenty years. Each bar in the year shows that the website was archived during that time. The months below show the actual dates that the website was archived. You can use these dates to pinpoint the old website content you want to find.

Step 3: Find Your Old Content

Click on a date. I recommend starting from the most recent capture and rolling back, unless you know the content is really old. Click on a specific date – one of the blue circles on the year-long calendar.

This will open an old version of your website with a navigation tool bar at the top. You can use this tool bar to move back and forth in time to find the content you are looking for.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Your images might not show up. The one drawback to the Wayback machine is that they rarely archive the images with the old website page. So, if you see empty boxes with broken images, that’s normal.

Step 4: Save Your Old Content

Once you’ve found the content you were looking for, copy and save it some place safe for future use. You may want to consider thumbing through your other pages to make sure that there isn’t any other content that want to save.

How to Save Pages for the Future

Are you about to make a big change to your website, such as moving platforms or starting over? You can use The Wayback Machine to keep an archive of your old website right before you make a momentous change. On the main page for The Wayback Machine there is a “Save Page Now” tool that allows you to archive a page.

Summary

You can use The Wayback Machine to find your old website content for any website on any platform. This tool allows you to look at an archived version of your website.

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